Faculty Feature: Dr. Joseph Shih

A photo of Dr. Shih and his wife, Dr. Rahn-Lee. (Joseph Shih/William Jewell College)

This week, The Hilltop Monitor had the opportunity to sit down with William Jewell College’s Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Joseph Shih to discuss all things biology, from graduate careers in biomedical sciences to second generation biotech to his patent.

Dr. Shih was moved to a tenure-track position at Jewell last year. This, combined with the departure of Dr. Rose Reynolds from the biology department, means that Dr. Shih took on a heavier course load than in past years. One of his favorite courses to teach is BIO 234: Genetics. Dr. Shih said he enjoys teaching the course because “genetics is all biology and constantly [an area of focus in biology] because it ranges from the central dogma of transcription and translation… to the organismal [level].” It serves as a constant language across multiple levels of analysis, from “the micro of micro levels” to an entire organism. He said he “loves the intersection between science, genetics [and] culture.”

A photo of Dr. Shih and his family. (Joseph Shih/William Jewell College)

Dr. Shih is also co-owner of a U.S. patent. During his time at Stanford University, he advised a team of students in creating systems to protect infants in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). When infants are in the NICU, the easiest way to take samples and give nutrients is through the umbilical cord. When designing the device, Dr. Shih and his team sought to “standardize care, make it faster and easier for nurses, and protect the umbilical cord from…getting a bacterial infection

Over the course of our conversation, Dr. Shih stressed the importance of human factors – collaboration and improvement – in science and research. When he applied to both graduate school and medical school, a process he “would not recommend to anybody,” he chose to attend graduate school because of how competitive medical schools were at the time. Dr. Shih said he thinks that there’s still a competitive atmosphere at the top medical schools, but “medicine is getting around to the fact that it needs to be collaborative and not as competitive…it’s always a team to treat a patient.”

This philosophy of collaboration and improvement has had a significant impact on the way that Dr. Shih does research. He collaborates with his wife, Biology Chair Dr. Lilah Rahn-Lee, on second-generation biotech. This second-generation biotech focuses on introducing, rather than making, the desired product; “the idea is [to] make a transgenic organism that will do [a] natural process, just better.”

A photo of Dr. Shih and his son on a trip. (Lilah Rahn-Lee/William Jewell College)

Outside the classroom and the lab, Dr. Shih enjoys the company of Dr. Lilah Rahn-Lee and their 2- and 4-year-old boys. His hobbies include surfing (he’s even surfed the day before a hurricane), swimming and camping.

A photo of Dr. Shih and his son. (Joseph Shih/William Jewell College)
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